Write Stuff Wednesday: Dual Pov Query Letters
I use Query letters as a form of procrastination.
If you didn't question my sanity before, you're definitely doing it now, I'm sure!
In the quest to become an agented author, bleeding thousands of words and calling it an ms isn't enough, most typical cases also require you to write a Query Letter. In the UK, I've seen them referred to as book proposals or cover letters. From what I've seen, in all three you 'sell' the plot of your ms without revealing any spoilers in a few paragraphs. Some sites I read described the letter as a blurb you'll find on the back of a book. Others describe it as torture.
Although they are a huge pain, I find them kind of...fun. Perhaps because finishing one means you're close to submission (even if you still have over half a book to write). One of my favourite things to do prior to finding my agent was trolling sites like Query Tracker looking for successful query letters. Few of them focused on more than one pov, however.
The rule of thumb is to stick with the character who has the main story-line, but the nature of my plot meant that both my protagonists needed to feature in the query letter. I tried it the other way and it didn't support the main themes in my story.
So, following the advice of treating the query like blurb, I looked at the dual pov Ember in the Ashes, and the multiple pov, Falling Kingdoms and used them as a spring board until I had a version I thought worked. The most important factor, for me, was linking the different storylines of my main characters. Check it out:
For magi in Aiyca, magical inheritance was once a cause for celebration. Now under the rule of a corrupt Witches Council, the dangers of its compulsory transition spawn a tentative alliance between two witches from enemy castes in one’s quest for freedom, and the other’s—vengeance.
Inheriting her ancestors’ magic might signify the end of 18-year-old obeah-witch Iraya Adair’s five-year tenure in prison, but power no longer equates to freedom for the Obeah. Not only is Iraya bound by the laws of the land to work as a magical labourer for the caste responsible for usurping her kind, she’s also bound by an atavistic honour that demands blood: the Myal Witches Council killed her family, and she wants revenge. But when rumours about the Obeahs’ Lost Empress follow her from prison, Iraya’s plans of retribution become contingent on surviving—and evading—the expectations levelled in her direction.
Survival is a concept familiar to Jazmyne Cariot. In their bid to ensure her caste remains in power, the Witches Council sacrifices 17-year-old Myal teens before they can inherit their ancestors’ magic from their matriarchs and patriarchs. Rather than accepting her lot in life, Jazmyne wishes to rid Aiyca of the Witches Council’s bloody corruption. But Aiyca’s leader isn’t simply a formidable adversary—she’s Jazmyne’s mama. With no magic of her own, and death looming, Jazmyne needs help. She needs Iraya.
In a land fuelled by magical intent, both witches are aware that players in a game do not make a team, especially when the game is murder and the Witches Council is the target. But with pressure mounting, Iraya and Jazmyne might be desperate enough to accept one another’s aid—even if their alliance brings war to Aiyca on swift, obsidian wings.
*whew* how long is that?!
One of my brilliant CPs, Fallon - who is a Pitch Wars mentor this year! - said, "Holy world-building terms Batman." Too close to my ms I couldn't see that there were words/concepts that would bog agents down. I suspect that if it was printed it would also bog agents down with the weight of all the words - jeez, SO LONG. It also reads a lot more like a synopsis, albeit one without spoilers. Anyway, it needed work. My CP cut it down until it was just bones. I then dived in and added only the most essential flesh and muscle and all that bloody stuff until it eventually became:
For 18-year-old obeah-witch IRAYA ADAIR, inheriting her ancestors’ magic means two things: the first, that she’s destined to toil as a magical generator for the Myal Witches Council who usurped her caste—and killed her family. The second, vengeance. Honour demands blood.
When rumours follow her from a mandatory prison sentence—alleging that she’s the Obeahs’ Lost Empress—Iraya’s caste want her leadership, the Myal want her subdued, and her vow of retribution becomes contingent on evading the expectations levelled in her direction.
JAZMYNE CARIOT is no stranger to evasion. To ensure her caste remains in power, the Witches Council sacrifices 17-year-old Myal teens before they can inherit their ancestors’ magic from their parents. Facing an imminent death, Jazmyne needs to put an end to the Witches Council’s bloody corruption. Before it’s too late.
With no magic of her own to overthrow the Witches Council’s leader—who’s not only a formidable witch, but also her mama, Jazmyne needs help.
Two players in a game don’t make a team, especially when the game is murder and the Witches Council is the target. With pressure mounting, Iraya and Jazmyne might be desperate enough to work together in the limited time they have—even if their alliance brings war to Aiyca on swift, obsidian wings.
While there's things I'd probably revisit if I look at it for too long, the artist's prerogative etc, this clearer query worked magic for me. You can read about the long version in my 'How I Got My Agent' post. The short version is;
7 full manuscript requests (three came after less than three hours after I queried)
2 offers of representation (the first offer was 'tentative' until we met up, but it came within two days of querying)
3 wonderful passes (from Amazing Agents)
2 no responders by deadline
1 chat post deadline to offer congratulations
Aside from looking at successful letters, my biggest take-away was to always get fresh eyes on the query. So keep an eye on the #pitchwars tag, as there are usually all sorts of wonderful query giveaways.
*Also* I would literally google 'Successful Queries', but Query Shark is a must read, and Query Tracker is also pretty boss. Agent Query Connect, like QT, is a site where you can post your query and receive feedback.*